Author: iercan

Cumhuriyet: “Turkey’s first trans actress Ayta Sözeri: Because I fell in love”

“Love people, time is very precious” said trans actress Ayta Sözeri, who first shared that she was trapped in the wrong body with her mother.

44412Source: Zehra Özdilek, “Türkiye’nin ilk trans oyuncusu Ayta Sözeri: Çünkü âşık olmuştum,” Cumhuriyet, 2 May 2017.

Ayta Sözeri (40), is Turkey’s first trans actress. She is a concerted human rights activist. She is a singer we’ve seen on stage for a long time. We talked about life, acting, and upcoming projects with Sözeri, an actress who impressed screen directors with her roles in TV dramas such as Ulan Istanbul, Lost City, and Shattered.

-Tell us about yourself.

I was born in Germany, and moved to Izmir with my family when I was 6. I am a graduate of Ege University’s Business Administration department. My educational life took place entirely in Izmir. There are four of us siblings. I always wanted to be a singer. I became both a singer and an actress.

-Do you have memories that stand out from your childhood?

When I was a child, I would be happy whenever spring came around. I don’t know if children today play, but we would play in the neighborhood until 12 at night. There were some games I did not know how to play. For example, when we first moved from Germany I did not know how to play hide and seek. I can also never forget the Sunday breakfasts we had as a family.

Sensing is always the same…

-When did you realize you were trapped in the wrong body?

However old you were when you noticed that you belonged in your body, that is when I realized I did not. I think that everyone can ask themselves this question. When was it that you realized that you were heterosexual, when you liked your body, when did you notice these things, that’s when I also realized them. I did so right around the age when everyone starts noticing these things…

-How did you tell your family?

This has a bit to do with courage, you say it however you choose to say it. Of course, there are people who have not been able to say these things. I also had moments when I thought “how can I say it,” but it comes to you and you say it. My breaking point was love. I was in love with someone and did not know what to do about it, so I felt the need to tell someone. So I told my mother.

Inside the art…

-Starting acting…

I actually was not interested in acting, but I realized in middle school that I was not going to be a singer, and because I still wanted to be in the art world, I decided to pursue acting. I told myself, at least I’ll act in city theater or school theater. Of course, when it became obvious that I had a good voice and could sing, acting went on the backburner. Until then, I’d been in a number of plays. I acted at the Levent Kırca Theater, for what seems like years of training to me. Mustafa Şevki Doğan said he wanted to have me act when he heard me singing, while I was singing he said “you’ll act.” I acted in
Life Bonds and they told me “definitely do not leave acting”…

-Which character is most difficult to for you to bring to life when acting?

In the film
Surrender, acting the part of a transexual sex worker was difficult for me. Because it’s an area that I really do not know.

 

The mental map has changed

-Have there been moments when you’ve fallen into despair?

Yes, there have been. I fought for 12, 13 years. I acted in small roles. At the point when I said nothing will happen for me,
Lost City happened. Much like the mental shifts that happened in the way people think about LGBTI people in Lost City, many things have changed in my life as well.

Our lives are in danger

-Each year attempts are made to hinder the Pride Parade. Why are they trying to block this?

They say you can not do this walk due to security concerns. They accept that we live in a country where our safety is not guaranteed. For us LGBTIQs, we are not in a safe country, our lives are in danger. Given that they know this, instead of obstructing the march, why don’t they help protect our rights and bring about laws that will give us positive discrimination. I want to say to them that even with the excuses that they hold onto, they know how much danger we are in yet they are doing nothing.

By loving, it will change

– Are there new projects on the horizon?

There are, we’ll be together again for this new season. I’ll be a guest star on Mustafa Şevki Doğan’s new drama. I am with the director who discovered me. I’ll be playing a woman whose heart is full of goodness.


– What is your message to those who read these words?

I have one message: love people, time is very precious. Be assured that everything changes with love.

Yeni Akit: Vile Scandal at Koç University! Immoralists walking around half-naked

Yeni Akit is a conservative daily newspaper that engages in hate speech against LGBTI people and other groups. This is a verbatim translation. 

The latest images from Koç University show their state of moral corruption.

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Source: “Koç Üniversitesi’nde rezalet! Ahlaksızlar yarı çıplak geziyor,” Yeni Akit, 5 April 2017, http://www.yeniakit.com.tr/haber/koc-universitesinde-rezalet-ahlaksizlar-yari-ciplak-geziyor-296775.html

Scandalous images continue to emerge from time to time from universities who are tasked with training the younger generation to become individuals who are of use to the country. The latest example comes from Koç University. Images taken at Koç University, where thousands of students are completing their higher education, sheds light on the last point of immorality in the university. The images show students freely walking around half-naked on campus. While people who see the images are amazed at how these images transcend the boundaries of morality and decency within the campus, they also question the capability of such an institution to raise a generation based on national and moral values.

They are injecting perversion in educational institutions

The student, who can be seen in the images with the egregious stockings, turns out to be a member of the perverted homosexual LGBT community. It is almost as if by allowing the perverts to walk around the university so freely, the institution is playing to the hands of those who are trying to put immorality into the educational institutions.

Students and parents are uncomfortable with the scandalous images

While the unscrupulous images of Koç University disturb many students studying at the university, it also worries parents who are trying their hardest to enable their children to go to a university. Parents are expecting the authorities to take action as soon as possible.

The images are so disgraceful that we can only publish photos by blurring them. We will present the photographs in their original form in the case that competent authorities take action.

Kaos GL: Ian McKellen said “as a gay man,” translator ignored!

Sir Ian McKellen was presented an award by the Istanbul Film Festival. During his speech at the opening gala he said, “as an openly gay man” but the translator didn’t translate it into Turkish.

Editor’s note: See the festival’s response here.

Source: Yıldız Tar, “Ian McKellen said ‘as a gay man’, interpreter ignored!” Kaos GL, April 5 2017, http://kaosgl.org/page.php?id=23476

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Organised by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV), Istanbul Film Festival’s 36th edition kicked off with an opening gala on Tuesday night, April 4. The opening gala brought the stars and distinguished figures of Turkish cinema together at TİM Show Center where Cinema Honorary Awards and plaques were presented.

Sir Ian McKellen was one of the actors who won an award. During his speech at the gala he said, “as an openly gay man”. However, the translator of the festival ignored this phrase. LGBTI activist Seçil Epik told KaosGL.org what happened during the gala:

“After being invited to the stage by Kerem Ayan, one of the coordinators of Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts Film Festival, to receive his Honorary Award, Ian McKellen started to introduce himself by saying that he is 78, born in England and that he identified himself as an actor from Great Britain. Then he continued his speech with the words “as an openly gay man”, but the simultaneous translator did not translate those words into Turkish. First Kerem Ayan on stage, then the audience who speak English were in a little bit of a shock. Subsequently, even if Ian McKellen understood that something went wrong with the translation and looked at the translator, the program flow continued as if nothing had happened.”

Murathan Mungan: Great shame!

Famous poet and author Murathan Mungan shared the incident from his social media account:

“A great shame happened during the opening gala of the Istanbul Film Festival. As a gay rights activist as well as a great actor, Ian Mckellen started his sentence while mentioning the bans on Turkey and said, “As an openly gay man” however simultaneous interpreter skipped this sentence, censored it. It is worrisome that even in the Istanbul Film Festival organization there are ‘morality guards’ regarding the internalization of fear, oppression, anxiety and homophobia.”

McKellen’s Istanbul program

One of the most beloved actors of the screen and theatre with his outstanding performances in Richard III, Gods and Monsters, Lord of the Rings series and X-Men, Sir Ian McKellen has also been the ambassador of British Council’s Shakespeare Lives programme in 2016 Opens in a new tab or window.

Sir Ian McKellen will be the guest of Istanbul Film Festival by IKSV and receive a cinema honorary award. Sir McKellen will also be meeting LGBT groups to support equality.

Editor’s Note: Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts tweeted the following response after Kaos GL’s story.

“An incorrect perception that honorary guest of the 36. @ist_filmfest Sir Ian McKellen’s speech during the opening ceremony was censored.”

“We would like to express that the hitch in the translation @ist_filmfest was caused by sound not reaching the stage during the speech and was not intentional.”

Yeni Akit: Perversion at Robert College

Yeni Akit is a conservative daily newspaper that engages in hate speech against LGBTI people and other groups. This is a verbatim translation. 

The gay-lesbianism perversion injected by the evil powers doing all they can to play with genetic codes of Muslim Turkish society has now reached as far as schools.

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Source: Faruk Arslan, “Robert Koleji’nde Sapkınlık,” Yeni Akit, March 31 2017, http://www.yeniakit.com.tr/haber/robert-kolejinde-sapkinlik-294788.html

The gay-lesbianism perversion injected by the evil powers doing all they can to play with genetic codes of Muslim Turkish society has now reached as far as schools. It has come to light that the American Robert College has designated the dates March 27-31 as “Gay and Homosexual Week.” It has been discovered that the week-long activities that involve movies, books and competitions that all aim to transfer the homosexual perversion to high school students were organized by the U.S. educators Marshall Hoover and Joe Welch.

THEY WILL INJECT “HOMOSEXUALITY” TO HIGH-SCHOOL STUDENTS

Robert College did not make a prior announcement for the activities involved in the “Gay and Homosexual Week” and allegedly organized it without approval of the Ministry of Education, informing the teachers via direct email. It has been reported that Robert College, which is rooted abroad, designated the theme of this week’s activities organized under Alliance/Solidarity Week as homosexuality. The American Robert College, joining the chorus of perverts that represent the disease of homosexuality as a normal human condition, has added 25 homosexuality-related books to its library collection. The covers of related books are marked with the rainbow symbol, which represents these perverts called LGBT. The email that Robert College sent to its teachers included the following statements about the LGBT books: “Have we skipped any books? Let us know and we will mark their covers. We have also prepared a jar for you to notify us about books on this subject that are not in our library.” It was reported that a big rainbow image for students to take pictures under was prepared at the College.

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THE HOMO COMPETITION AND PRIZE

A competition about homosexuals was organized in the part of Robert College known as Marble Hall. Robert College prepared a board with pictures of “famous” homosexuals and asked students to write the names of the perverts on the picture with a ballot. It was announced that the students who can answer the most questions will win a “fabulous prize.”

THEY HAD A 17 YEAR OLD GIVE A PRESENTATION ON HOMOSEXUALITY

An information desk was also set up at the school. At the desk, students’ questions on homosexuality were addressed, and homosexuality was praised. Robert College did not stop there. During “Gay and Homosexual Week,” an 11th grader named Kaan Tarhan gave a presentation on “biological causes of homosexuality.” The perverts’ presentation, that they had a high school student give, took place in the teachers’ lounge called “Gould Hall.”

IMMORAL MOVIES

The Robert College’s homosexuality activities today (Thursday) will include movie screenings. The students will be shown two movies involving obscene scenes related with gay and lesbianism at Robert College, which is affiliated with the Ministry of Education. At 3PM the “Geography Club,” at 6PM Ferzan Özpetek’s “Loose Cannons” movie on the story of a gay man’s struggle with his family and friends who do not accept him will be screened. In order to increase the attendance to these obscene movies, the Robert College administration announced that various snacks will be served during the screenings.

THEY CONFINED THEMSELVES TO SILENCE

The Robert College authorities to whom we referred regarding the subject were allegedly not available and have refrained from making any statement.

They tried to put the LGBTI activist Kıvılcım Arat in a men’s detention cell!

Arat is in custody in Atatürk airport.

Source: T24, “Gözaltına alınan LGBTİ aktivisti Kıvılcım Arat’ı nezarethanede erkek bölümüne koymaya çalıştılar!” (They tried to hold the LGBTI activist Kıvılcım Arat in men’s detainment room!), 17 March 2017, http://t24.com.tr/haber/gozaltina-alinan-lgbti-aktivisti-kivilcim-arati-nezarethanede-erkek-bolumune-koymaya-calistilar,394365

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Trans activist
Kıvılcım Arat’s lawyer met her after she was taken into custody in Istanbul Atatürk International Airport and said they tried to put her in a men’s detention cell, but following an argument she was put in a single cell. Arat is detained for “not testifying in an investigation.”

According to a news report by KaosGL’s Yıldız Tar, following Istanbul LGBTİ Board Member trans activist Kıvılcım Arat’s detention in Atatürk Airport’s International Terminal today (March 17), her lawyer Aylin Kırıkçı met with Arat.

In an interview with KaosGL.org, lawyer Kırıkçı mentioned that they have not been informed on the content of the case file leading to the detention and made the following statement:

“Currently, we do not know the content of the case file, however, when we look into her GBT [General Information Gathering System — Trans.] record, we see that she was supposed to testify in a court case which led to an arrest warrant. It is unclear what she was going to testify about and in which court case. As her lawyers, we tried to contact the district attorney to start the process for her testimony but we could not reach them. Due to our client’s health problems the testimony was supposed to be taken today, but was not, because we could not reach the district attorney.”

They tried to put her in a men’s detention cell

Kırıkçı mentioned that Arat is held at the Atatürk Airport Police Station, and is expected to give her testimony to the district attorney tomorrow morning (March 18). Kırıkçı added that, even though Arat is a trans woman, they tried to hold her in a men’s detention cell:

“Even though my client is a trans women, they tried to put her in a men’s detention cell where 20 men are kept. Following Kıvılcım’s objection and an argument she was not put in the men’s area. Currently, she is kept in a single cell.”

She sent a message from detention

Arat sent a message with her lawyer. Her message emphasized solidarity.

“Just to spite those who try to call whistleblowing into in our spaces of solidarity, we will continue to fight, stick together, stand shoulder to shoulder.”

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Editor’s note: Kıvılcım Arat was released from detention on March 18.

Istanbul LGBTI’s Kıvılcım Arat is taken into custody

Istanbul LGBTI’s trans activist Kıvılcım Arat was taken into custody at Istanbul Atatürk Airport International Terminal. Arat, whose detainment reason is unknown, was on her way to a women’s rights conference.

Source: Yıldız Tar, “İstanbul LGBTİ’den Kıvılcım Arat gözaltına alındı” (“Istanbul LGBTI’s Kıvılcım Arat is taken into custody”), 17 March 2017, Kaos GL, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=23328

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Istanbul LGBTI Association Board Member and trans activist Kıvılcım Arat was taken into custody at Istanbul Atatürk Airport International Terminal.

While Arat’s detainment reason is unknown, Zelal Demir of Istanbul LGBTI told KaosGL.org that the lawyers are on their way to meet Arat. Demir added that they are neither informed on the reason for detainment nor the location of the station in which Arat is held, and continued with the following statement:

“Fight for rights cannot be restrained by detentions!”

“We are not informed on the detainment reason of our friend, our comrade, our board member Kıvılcım Arat, although, we are going through times that a large number of human rights defenders are facing detainment. We demand Kıvılcım to be released. Fight for rights cannot be restrained by detentions. We stand by our friend.”

Today, Arat was on her way to a women’s rights conference in Germany. It is believed that she is taken into custody whilst she was in line for passport control.

We will continue to report on the details…

Editor’s note: Kıvılcım Arat was released from detention on March 18.

“Families in Turkey see their kids as their possession”

We talked with the parents whose kids are homosexual, about the concept of family, alternative family experiences in Turkey and their adventures that started with their kids coming out to them.

Source: Yıldız Tar, “Türkiye’de aileler çocuklarını malları gibi görüyor” (“Families in Turkey see their kids as their possession”), 19 February, 2015 KaosGL,  http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=18792

omersule2Ömer and Şule

On one hand it is a warm nest, on the other it’s everyone’s trouble without exception: Family. We talked about family, a world of secrets nested in secrets, with two mothers and two fathers who have torn these secrets apart.

On the one hand Şule and Ömer who embarked upon the adventure of their life years ago, after finding out that their son is gay; on the other hand is Buzul and Kaya who has only recently faced this fact.

The transformation of the family known as a safe haven, friendships that go beyond kinship, a mother who drew the curtains when she first found out her son was gay, a father who says “I don’t know who I thought about the most”, new kinships and friendships built through LGBT Friends and Families of LGBTIs in Turkey (LISTAG)

The stories of those who say “A different family is possible”, stories of  taking a step towards emancipation, of reconstructing the family, of questioning themselves…

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What does family mean? What comes to your mind when we say family?

Buzul: My nuclear family comes to my mind. It’s made up of the people I can’t live without; with whom I  would like to realize my wishes. A more autonomous, freer environment comes to mind. I’m talking about creating a more cheerful and enjoyable space.

Kaya:  I can define the family as before and after my son told us he is gay. Before, it was a safe haven, a castle for me. I saw family as something solely made up of blood ties. Afterwards I realized that it wasn’t only blood ties. The definition in my head keeps changing. I realize that it doesn’t necessarily have to be about blood ties.

What did you feel when your son first came out? What happened to the family you call a safe haven and a castle?

Kaya:  Frankly, I don’t know what I felt the first time I heard it. It was as if there was a great explosion and I was in shock, didn’t know what to do. I don’t know whether I thought about him or my wife more. Our son is abroad and wrote about his sexual orientation in a letter. When I first read the letter, I told my wife Buzul “Nothing is going to be the same. Our life passed onto a new phase.” After that we talked about what we should do. Our son gave us some information about LİSTAG and Lambdaistanbul in his letter. My wife called immediately. My first feeling was despair.

“My first reflex was to draw the curtains”

Buzul, you were to first call LISTAG. You called and someone answered the phone. What did you feel during that first conversation?

Buzul: I’m lucky that a calm person answered the phone. I had someone who was similar to me emotionally.They were talking with a calm voice, explaining the situation to me in a casual manner. It gave me confidence. I wanted to talk face to face immediately that day. I had to see, we had to be face to face. When my son first told me, I thought that he assumed being that way. I interpreted it as a confusion.

It was a hard day for me that day. I opened the letter first. I talked on the phone first. We actually talked about a detail about that day recently. The letter came in a decorated blue envelope. I thought it was a card from my son for my birthday. He had been holding off on our relationship for a while so I thought he sent it for my birthday. I was all alone when I first read it. My first reaction was to draw the curtains. I got into a terrible crying fit. Then I couldn’t really predict how my husband would react. I started thinking about that.

I called my husband. When he insisted to know what’s going on, I was forced to tell him. Later when he came home crying I was more composed. When I saw his reaction, I pulled myself together. I was scared for my husband. He has high blood pressure and heart problems. It was a weird state of mind. I first thought about the boy. Then myself. And when I saw my husband, I came to my senses thinking, “Pull yourself together, the boy and the man need you.”

“I found out how we have been fooled until today”

Ömer and Şule, you told about your experiences on different occasions. Therefore I’d like to ask what changed in your life. Şule, what changed in your life after your son told you he is homosexual? Has Şule remained the same?

Şule: I’m in a very different place right now. Most importantly, my relationship with my son is in another dimension. We’ve always been very good but there were secrets between us. He couldn’t open up to me. I knew things about him but I acted like I didn’t know. I couldn’t face myself. Afterwards I was liberated. After LISTAG, in each talk I had with a new person I noticed that burdens were lifted off my shoulders.

Aside from me and my son’s process, my life has changed a lot too. I started looking around more carefully. I have realized how many people were pushed away, othered, discriminated against. There hadn’t been any place for them in my protected life up to that point. I even doubted their existence. Some people lived some place but I didn’t know how they lived. I learned about different opinions of different people. I saw how we have been fooled until today. Especially with Gezi resistance, I saw how much of a liar the media was. I witnessed how my experience at the part was twisted on the media. After that day I decided not to watch TV anymore. I was naive before, I believed. I thought the great media would not lie.

What do you think about this Ömer?

Ömer:  After coming out Öner wanted to talk to me but I always ran away. So he started to leave Kaos GL magazine and some articles around. After reading those, I started talking with my son. When we first went to CETAD, I was saying “I’ve accepted this” but we were giving interviews with nicknames, avoiding to have our photos taken. When I gave an interview with my photo on November 2010 I realized that I hadn’t accepted but only learnt. After that day, my process of acceptance started.

An individual’s life is only his/her business. Ever since I was a kid, I have always stood against my father, the school, my bosses. I was a rebel. This is how I evaluated my son’s coming out and his sexual orientation. As I learned, I started touching people, relating to them. Touching gave me great joy. Helping even one person is an immense pleasure.

Throughout your experiences at LİSTAG and your years long activism, did the concept of “family” change in your mind? What comes to Ömer and Şule’s minds when they hear the word “family”? Who do you visualize?

Ömer: Not much has changed for me but my ideas. As I look at other families, as I question the concept of family, I came to think that the institution of family in Turkey is a great problem.  My perspective was enhanced. Families in Turkey see their kids as their possession. It’s not something I experienced personally but families intervene, saying “It’s for their good, otherwise they would make mistakes.” And who is to know that you won’t make mistakes? Everyone needs to be free individuals and give their own decisions.  If my child ask my opinion, I would tell them but s/he doesn’t have to do what I say. A different family is possible, but today’s family structure is not healthy. It’s detrimental to both the children and the parents. Families should not be built on relations of interest. Parents should do nothing more that building an environment where children can create their personalities freely. I don’t think family has anything to do with blood ties. I for once, see LİSTAG more than I see Öner.

I used to think only children should be free but I add women to this list as I see the violence and oppression against women. Men should be reliberated. Men are burdened in the institution of family too. They say “men don’t cry” for instance…Men are supposed to be strong. What’s that got to do with anything? Men are emotional too, they cry. All individuals must be liberated, collectively.

Şule: I’d like to emphasize the importance of the family as we know it, as formed of mother,father and child. We spoke to many kids and I saw that coming out to family is very important. Many LGBTI children seek acceptance from their parents and family. On the one hand they say “a different family is possible” but on the other they want to come out to their families and be respected by them.

“I’d like to come out to my family just like my child did”

Buzul, what do you think? Is a different family possible? What is this different family like?

Buzul: These ideas are flying around in my head. I can’t say anything clearly yet. But basically a happy and a peaceful life. I envied the LGBTI parents who came to the family meetings with their siblings or their mothers. A part of me expects acceptance like the children who come out and are not accepted. I’m wondering how my own parents will react to my child’s sexual orientation.

Your child came out to you and now you want to come out to your own family as the mother of a homosexual child…

Buzul: I ask myself why I want such a thing. If being homosexual is something sexual; and people don’t talk about their sexuality why should you be forced to explain it when you are homosexual? In the same manner, why must I explain my child’s sexuality? But if anything happens to me, I want to teach my relatives a thing or two, so that they won’t harass my child. I became a liar in this process. I’m an educator and I tell my ideas about the film “My child” coming to our school. It’s like slowly we are coming out. On the other hand, why am I doing this like I’m giving an account for it? I guess my experience is very similar to what homosexual children go through.

As I got in touch with youth thanks to LİSTAG, I met various types of families. Through the young people coming to the association I notice different types of families. You can become a family with your dog. My parents disappeared in my head. My mother and father are still precious to me but I called all LISTAG mothers last Mother’s Day. I look at my son and his friends, their worldview carried me forward.

Let’s ask the father as well, if people heard your son is gay what would they say?

Kaya: I’m a person of rationality, emotions come much later for me. Lately,  I’m thinking of settling accounts with family in my mind. I’m wondering what kind of reflex my own mother, father and relatives will develop. I want this encounter for myself. This way I can clean my environment. I will be free of people who don’t accept my child. One day I want to talk to my son and “get things off my chest”. I find many people to be hypocritical.

*This interview was first published on Kaos GL’s issue no. 139 on “Family”.